While Trevor Bayne, Greg Biffle and Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. each ran a full schedule for Roush-Fenway Racing (RFR) during the 2016 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season, XFINITY standout Ryan Reed made only one start for the race team at the top level. Driving the No. 99 Lilly Diabetes/ADA Drive to Stop Diabetes Ford in the Hellman’s 500 at Talladega last October, Reed finished 26th.
Reed was pleased with his Cup debut in a race that is known have tense moments. “Today meant so much to me,” Reed said after the race in an RFR post-race report. “I truly hope I was able to earn some respect out there. We always want a better finish than 26th, but with no mistakes and not a scratch on the car we’ll take that here at Talladega.”
Ever since 2014 when Carl Edwards won races at Bristol and Sonoma, RFR has been skunked as far as getting back in victory circle. Stenhouse, Jr. got close in the Bass Pro Shops NRA Night Race at Bristol in August (which ended up being a day race due to inclement weather) when he finished runner-up to Kevin Harvick driving a special tribute car dedicated to Bryan Clauson.
“We really wanted to get this (Bryan Clauson tribute) car into victory lane but it just wasn’t meant to be today,” Stenhouse, Jr. said in a team transcript after the race. “We made our car a lot faster throughout the race and came from two laps down to get back on the lead lap. We missed some wrecks and gave it all we had.”
Throughout the 2016 season, RFR seemed to have their peaks and valleys. One of their highs came in July during the Coke Zero 400 at Daytona International Speedway when they took home three top-10 finishes. “It was wild out there,” Stenhouse, Jr. said in a team report after finishing fifth. “Clint (Bowyer) was pushing me the whole last lap. I wasn’t sure we would be able to be pushed all the way through the corners but we were able to hold it in a straight line as best we could and get a top-five finish.”
Stenhouse, Jr. also finished fifth in the Auto Club 400 at Fontana in March and the Hellmann’s 500 at Talladega where he also led six laps. He ended the 2016 season with four top-five’s, six top 10’s and 22 top-20 finishes.
Bayne earned his best season finish of third during his summer visit to Daytona. The driver of the No. 6 AdvoCare Ford did it by passing nine cars on the final restart of the Coke Zero 400 with only two laps remaining. “That was wild,” said the 2011 Daytona 500 champion in a team report after the race. “We restarted 12th and with help from the (No.) 3 car, we were able to get up to the outside and really make up some ground. We got behind the (No.) 18 down the backstretch and I pushed him with all I had.”
Bayne also finished fifth at Bristol’s spring event, the Food City 500, to give him a total of two top-five finishes for the 2016 season. He also earned five top 10’s, 20 top-20 finishes and led 34 laps in two races.
Sitting on the pole during the Coke Zero 400 was a high point for Biffle. The driver of the No. 16 Ford EcoBoost Ford went on to finish eighth in the 160-lap race despite being collected in the ‘big one’. “It was a rough night after we got in that wreck,” Biffle said after the race in a team report. “We got shuffled out of line and that will happen with speedway racing. We got pretty severe damage and were able to finish eighth.”
Biffle’s best season finish of fifth came during the New Hampshire 301. “It was a great run with the (No.) 18 car towards the end,” Biffle said in a post-race report from Ford Racing. “We are still working on these cars to get them faster. A great run for the NESN Ford Fusion today.”
Biffle finished sixth in Kentucky during the Quaker State 400 to give him a season total of three top-10 finishes. He also earned 20 top-20 runs and led 42 laps in six races.
2017 is looking a little different for Roush-Fenway. The team has decided to downsize to two cars. Bayne and Stenhouse, Jr. will return to the No. 6 and No. 17. The No. 16 charter has been leased to Chris Buescher as he makes his way to JTG-Daugherty Racing. Biffle has left the team and his plans are still unknown.
Co-owner Jack Roush is content with these adjustments. “We have been able to shore up our plans for 2017 and we feel that this will continue to move us in a direction that will yield improved performance and results,” he said. “We saw improvement in our cars and made substantial gains in our performance at times last season, and we will continue to build on that by maintaining a robust engineering group in order to take the next step by consistently running up front.”